Behind the Curtain |

2 mins

Behind the Curtain

From drag kings to quare fellows and a Noble Call, discover how the magic happens at the Abbey Theatre with a backstage tour.

Image by Ste Murray

The process and craft at the National Theatre are at the heart of our backstage tours. Did you know that the work by directors, writers and designers to bring a text from the page to the stage may begin a year or two before a play opens? Behind every door, crafters, makers and technicians are busy building component parts of a show for our audiences to visually and emotionally engage with.

The Abbey Theatre has been at the centre of Irish art and literature since 1904. The current building opened in 1966, and while the tour dips into the cultural, artistic and political contexts of its eras, it’s not heavy on the history.

John Scott the architect of the current building created a modernist plain box, bland on the outside with all the magic on the inside. The wonderful, wild and imaginative ideas of writers, directors and designers are brought to life and realised by over 50 expert makers and technical staff within the theatre.

The tour offers a thrilling insight into a world of stage managers, set designers, costume makers, hair and make-up, technicians of sound and light, and breakdown artists.

This expertise and attention to detail is brought to every show, each of which creates its own world.

“When we costume any character, we are helping to create the required illusion, in drag we need to take that illusion a little further, giving the illusion of a different gender,” explains costume artist and Drag King Consultant Breege Fahy. They worked with actors on the recent Christmas production of Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow in which Tom Creed cast all-female and non-binary players for his play set in Mountjoy Prison in the 1950s. This year, sound designer Sinéad Diskin layered 42 individual sounds to create the soundscape for the beach, in the world premiere of Audrey or Sorrow by Marina Carr.

On a recent tour of the theatre, Pól Ó Conghaile from the Irish Independent commented, “I’m stunned by the detailing, be it the stitching in a dress, direction of a light or font on a fake telegram — like the nightly performances, it all feels so real, so hand-crafted and analogue in an overwhelmingly digital world.”

With the tours, you can visit the stage where Panti Bliss delivered her sensational Noble Call and which has recently hosted actors like Eileen Walsh, Aaron Monaghan and Caitríona Ní Mhurchú. Go behind the scenes and explore how the magic happens.

To find out more about the Abbey Theatre tours check out the ‘Tours & Experiences’ page on their website The tours run every Saturday at 10:30am, as well as on lots of other dates.

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